The push by the civil society to have International Criminal Court suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto barred from contesting the presidency has lit a bonfire; with claims emerging it is a plan to ensure one politician gets a soft landing in the General Election.
The accusations comes hot on the heels of sustained pressure by eight representatives of the civil society to have the courts declare the two unfit for public office over crimes against humanity charges.
The petitioners say allowing Ruto and Uhuru to run for president is tantamount to watering down of Chapter Six of the Constitution, which sets a high threshold for integrity and ethics for those seeking public office.
Former Gatanga MP David Murathe, who is Uhuru’s ally, has pointed an accusing finger at the civil society for working at the behest of powerful rivals of the two presidential aspirants.
Murathe has alleged that an influential international NGO is part of the conspiracy to diminish political fortunes of Uhuru and Ruto.
“Those calling on the two not to run are the very civil society players who authored the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights report,” says Murathe.
The former legislator further accused some activists of conspiring with foreign forces to topple regimes in Africa and the Middle East.
The Standard On Sunday has also learnt Uhuru’s allies are fighting hard to see that the suitability of other presidential aspirants to contest is also determined by the courts.
It has emerged the three individuals – Patrick Njuguna, Augustino Netto and Charles Omanga and the Kenya Youth Parliament and Kenya Youth League who want Uhuru and Ruto barred from contesting have staged a takeover of the case and now want Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his deputy Musalia Mudavadi and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka enjoined in the case, claiming they have also been implicated in allegations of graft besides the ICC.
Onyango Weda, who is a TNA aspirant for Kisumu governor, represents the petitioners.
“The intent is to throw mud at every aspirant so as to have a level playing field,” said a source privy to the developments but who requested not to be named. Even as they are smeared with mud of partiality in the discharge of their public watchdog role, the civil society has distanced itself from the allegations.
They have faulted Ruto, Uhuru and their sympathisers for engaging in sideshows aimed at obstructing efforts to guard provision of the new Constitution from mutilation by agents of status quo some of whom even opposed it (read William Ruto).
“The gains of the new Constitution can only be realised if we have leaders of unquestionable moral probity,” says Morris Odhiambo, the President of National Civil Society Congress, who adds vetting of the presidential aspirants must be as thorough as that of the Judiciary which has seen some Appellate and High Court judges sent home for professional goofs and misconduct.
“What the civil society cares about is the promotion of accountability, transparency, integrity among other values,” added Odhiambo, who says their cause is a thorn in the flesh of forces of impunity.
Pundits have also thrown in a spin to the controversy pitting the civil society and politicians.
Dr Richard Bosire of University of Nairobi says issues raised by civil society on Chapter Six on leadership and integrity are weighty that cannot be swept under the carpet.
According to the don, the civil society has a constitutional right to ensure those seeking public offices are persons of unquestionable character. “The civil society has been steadfast in criticising those in the echelons of power irrespective of party affiliation. They also took to the streets demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister when it emerged funds for Kazi Kwa Vijana had been misappropriated,” he says.
Joseph Magutt, a political scientist, has however, poked holes on the credibility of some civil society organisations, which he accuses of working at the behest of foreigners who have a bias towards certain leaders.
“They have sacrificed public interest at the altar of foreign interests who fund their activities. Some of their donors have an opinion about Uhuru and Ruto,” he says.
Magutt, who is a lecturer at Kenyatta University, argues that save for former human rights official Maina Kiai, former PS John Githongo and a few others, some members of civil society are darling of the Kibaki-Raila regime that they can no longer criticise the Executive. “Some have even taken lucrative jobs in Government and even shut their organisations,” he says.
Such is the frosty nature of relationship between the political class and civil society, defined by acrimony and ostensibly laced with tension that Ruto accused them of working in cohorts with foreign missions to realise some agenda.
Some civil groups stand accused when they gathered a million signatures to counter last minute attempt by Kibaki to scuttle the ICC process through Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s infamous shuttle diplomacy mission that sought deferral and referrals of ICC summons.
The unrelenting pressure from civil society on eligibility of the two for presidential elections saw Attorney General Githu Muigai intervene seeking to have the case declared unconstitutional even as Uhuru’s lawyer Evans Monari faulted Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for engaging in the debate at ‘conferences’, saying such a debate will indubitably prejudice the outcome which is subject to adjudication of the court.
But senior counsel Paul Muite is of the view that the CJ was misrepresented by Githu and Monari, saying Mutunga was not deciding for the court on the matter of eligibility of Uhuru and Ruto.
Says he: “What the Chief Justice meant was that whether there is a pending Bill or not on leadership and integrity, it is the exclusive preserve of the courts to interpret Chapter Six.”
By Ken-Arthur Wekesa, The Standard